In photography trying to master light conditions and how light affects a photo can make or break the photo as much as understanding how your subjects behave. I enjoy how the last hour of sunlight works with these deer. The side-lighting in the picture below creates a light and dark side. While deer are innocent creatures they also are wild animals. The innocents will watch a potential predator even when very close, waiting for the predator to make a move. The wild animal will stomp its foot as if to say, you get out of here.
This yearling has set aside its fear and stepped out from behind cover. Stomping its foot, it clearly tries to establish itself as the boss ‘round here.
Observing their behavior I’ve discovered that Whitetail Deer have strong family values with family groups remaining together for several years. They have a social hierarchy with each individual responsible for a set of tasks. Understanding those tasks has allowed me to get very close to these deer and given me the chance to take photos.
Last summer this doe surprised me when she stepped out of her cover spot and let me walk up on her. We eventually got to within ten feet of each other. Why would she allow me to walk up on her? Why would she stay within ten feet of me when deer are flight animals? Nature has programmed them to run away from threats. Why didn’t she run? Her job within the social structure of the family is to distract the potential predator, while the dominant female moves the fawn away from me. I like the way the setting sun has created a soft glow around her.
Same thing this big buck is doing. He stepped out into the field and then led me about a half mile away from where we first encountered. He’s leading me away from the fawn – probably the yearling above – and allowing me to get some nice photos of him. The sun is setting and the forest’s trees behind us have created long shadows lending darkness to the image. When he had led me far enough away from the fawn, he ran back to where he had been. Which leads to one of my favorite photos taken about two weeks later.
When the bucks go into velvet, those antlers are very sensitive. Every little branch that hits or brushes up against them causes a type of pain male humans are familiar with. To a buck the antlers are everything. They use them to display their virility to the does and to ward off other males as potential suitors for those does. Because of the antler’s sensitivity, older breeding bucks will hang out in fields during the summer and will only run for cover when they absolutely have no other choice.
Lighting will make your photos enjoyable, and understanding how your subjects behave will allow you the opportunity to get photos of your favorite wild animals.